CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Women’s Day protest highlights enslavement of foreign domestic workers

HONG KONG (SE): The International Women’s Day turned out be a protest day for foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, who trooped to Immigration Tower in Wanchai, on March 8, objecting to policies they believe keep them down as modern slaves in the city.
 
Sringatin, spokesperson of the members of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body said foreign domestic workers are women entitled to labour rights, but many policies in Hong Kong bind them to slave-like conditions. 
 
“Many of these policies that keep us chained to abusive treatment are related to our conditions of stay that the Immigration Department defines and enforces,” she said.
 
She elaborated that these policies include the practice of the Immigration Department of turning down visa applications submitted by workers who change employers and are merely suspected to be job-hopping in order to collect severance pay.
 
Sringatin said a domestic worker’s search for better working conditions should not be considered irregular and even illegal. She said the policy has made many workers endure maltreatment to avoid the stigma of job-hopping.
 
The group also brought up the two-week rule, which constrains workers without employment, or between jobs, only two weeks stay before they are deported. Sringatin said the rule limits the chance to seek better employment and renders foreign domestic workers vulnerable to abuse and violence. The tortured Indonesian worker, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, whose employer was convicted in 2015, is an example of such abuses by the employer.
 
Moreover, she pointed out that the mandatory live-in employment arrangement implemented by the Immigration Department has also compelled workers into unsuitable accommodation arrangements such as bathrooms, kitchens, storerooms and even corridors.
 
She believes it is absurd of the department to use the live-in arrangement as a way to prevent foreign domestic workers from doing illegal work as they would not have the time or strength to do illegal work given their long working hours and the need to rest on holidays.
 
The workers demanded the Immigration Department review the discriminatory policies which deprive them of their labour rights.

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